Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I feel in the mood for somewhat darken forecasting today. Let's see if there is enough gunpowder left to make it happen...

Do you remember a SF movie (for teenagers, of course - who else is more eager to buy every little hint that the world can be different than their parents so dully insist?) called War Games? In this movie, a socially inept, but cute-looking little prodigy accidentally (with the help of second-hand modem and duct-tape coding efforts) gets connected to Pentagon super computer, has no simple idea what he is getting into and doesn't care (being a teenager's mother I totally believe that bit!) and starts a game which appears to be a nuclear war scenario run for real (this bit is the greatest assumption in the movie, but we'll come back to that). He is going chased down with half of the US armed forces, but miraculously escapes them, somehow tracks down the way to solve the problem and saves the world in the latest moment. Happy end, and the young nerd-in-making even managed to get himself a cute girlfriend as a bonus.

30 years later, Gary McKinnon, another no-longer-kid (still looking rather cute, by the way) tries to research whether US armed forces are holding back some information about alien visits to Earth (I think there was a SF movie with a similar plot!), breaks into Pentagon computer system (not as far as the kid from that earlier movie though) and, cutting long story short, now he is facinig extradition to US and spending rest of his life behind the bars. No cute girlfriend here, only a desperate mother going all possible routes to save her poor prodigy from all that. Very sad story with a very uncertain outcome.

To me, this sounds like an explicitly clear message from the governments involved: listen, cute and smart guys and girls, Internet is no longer your playground and computing machines are no longer your toys. We use them for real; don't mess with us, or else.

It is not the first time. Remember the story of Kevin Mitnik? He got away relatively easy, in comparison to Gary, but the message was essentially the same.

My bet is, this message is going to be reiterated again and again. But that is not all.

How about blogs and all information we put into them? Right now, it is very unregulated.

  • Everybody can blog under any persona, imagined or real, without legal problems;
  • A blog provider can shut down the service, is not obliged to ensure that the created content does not get lost and can even claim their rights over the content we create;
  • There a grey area whether the information found in blogs can be used as a legal evidence.
Legal people being the first ones concerned to keep their jobs intact, I expect this might change,, sooner or later, possibly along the following routes:
  • There can be introduced a licence for being a "information pool provider" (or call it as you like) for those who run a service allowing the public to create and upload their own content;
  • The registered providers will have to comply with the law which will, sooner or later, come into being. Among the requirements there can be:
  • Preserving the content and going through legal motions before shutting the service down to decide what's going to happen of it;
  • Providing the official structures any data access they require in a number of situations (no doubt they will be scrupulously described);
  • Providing the means to verify the identity of those who create the content.
It's the identification bit I am mostly interested about. What will it become when it settles? Will there be some smartcard like the banks use? Wireless implants? A universal ID bound to social security number?

Of course, there will always be unverified blogs but they can also be demoted in the public opinion into the area where good people don't go... every city has those, we are passing through them briefly or for fun but no person in his or her safe mind would choose to live there, right?

Am I paranoiac in thinking about all that?..

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